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Monday, July 22
Updated: July 24, 7:26 PM ET
Scheckter admits he'll probably be fired
By Bruce Martin
Scheckter was trying to pass teammate and team owner Eddie Cheever on the 171st lap. It appeared Cheever did not go low enough on the track, causing Scheckter to stay high.
His Dallara/Infiniti lost the grip on the concrete racing surface and Scheckter crashed into the second turn wall. It was Scheckter's sixth crash in 10 races this season, not counting a season-opening incident in which Scheckter pushed Cheever into the wall on the third lap at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Cheever was upset after Scheckter's latest incident and said he wanted to replace the driver before Sunday's Michigan Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway. According to sources, Cheever intends to test former Toyota Formula Atlantic champion Buddy Rice at Kentucky Speedway on Tuesday or Wednesday.
A revised entry list for Sunday's race had the driver for Scheckter's No. 52 entry as "to be announced." But one IRL official said it later was changed to Scheckter.
The 21-year-old rookie from South Africa is the son of 1979 Formula One World Champion Jody Scheckter. And he'd rather have the team make a change now.
"I don't know whether I'm going to be driving, but if (Cheever) needs to make a decision like he is going to, then make the decision," Scheckter said. "All I've wanted to do for that team is to win races. I've drove my heart out every single qualifying and every single race for that team. If they want to make that decision, I'll accept it.
"My gut feeling is they most probably will make the decision to fire me. Hopefully, I can move on to bigger and better things, which I don't think will be much of a problem."
Scheckter said he has not spoken to Cheever since the latest crash and only knows what he has read in the media.
"It's ridiculous, unbelievably ridiculous," Cheever said of Scheckter's incidents. "He has all the talent in the world to drive a race car fast. But I'm starting to wonder if there's an inability to learn with him."
Cheever said Red Bull is trying to place a young American driver in the No. 52 car, adding it's getting "very hard" to defend all of the team's damaged equipment. Cheever has crashed in four of 10 races and neither he nor Scheckter has won a race.
However, Cheever's partners, Red Bull and Formula One team owner Tom Walkinshaw, may not allow Scheckter to be axed. Scheckter came to the team through Walkinshaw, who is hoping to give the young driver enough experience in the United States to ultimately become an F1 driver.
Cheever also seemed to downplay the idea of Scheckter being fired, saying on Wednesday's edition of RPM2Night that while perhaps Scheckter thinks his performance merits him being fired, the team needs to get Scheckter more comfortable in order to give him a better outlook. Cheever also announced on RPM2Night that Buddy Rice would be driving a third car for the team at Michigan on Sunday.
In Saturday night's Indy Racing League event at Nashville, Scheckter was trying to pass Cheever in the second turn, but his car lost grip and crashed into the second turn wall.
"Unbelievable," Scheckter screamed into his radio. "My own teammate. I can't believe it."
Scheckter's crew advised him to calm down.
"I was coming up on Eddie to lap him," Scheckter recalled. "He was a lot slower and I approached him very quickly, took the high line and went into the wall. Billy Boat said in the medical center that there might have been something on the track. Eddie and I just have to sit down and look at the tapes. I am not sure what happened. It was an unfortunate situation. I am disappointed for myself and disappointed for the team."
On Monday, Scheckter had time to reflect on the situation.
"I was approaching Eddie at a massively quicker speed than what Eddie was doing. It's not like he gave me the high or the low line or he let me by at all. He wasn't hugging low completely. I was high and the problem is when you are approaching someone, he was going 180 miles an hour and I was running 202 mph. You can't slow down that quickly.
"I opted for the high line and he didn't give me room for the high line. I should have known that Eddie would maybe not give me that room. I would have thought when I saw a Red Bull car, especially when I was lapping him, that he would give me room, but he didn't. With Eddie, I should have braked, gone down two gears and waited behind him, although that would have cost me six or seven seconds. That's hindsight and I would have thought he would have given me more room."
Late Monday, Scheckter admitted his team owner has lost confidence in his ability to bring home a car in one piece. But he said he has other opportunities that would keep him in racing.
"All I care to say is I drove my heart out for that team, they gave me a very good car and all I wanted to do was win for them. And unfortunately that wasn't granted," Scheckter said. "I'll move on because there are bigger fish in the pond.
"I'd love to carry on in the IRL, but if Eddie doesn't want me in the team, I'll have to move to somewhere else and move to somewhere that has an opportunity to win because that's the most important thing to me, by far, is the opportunity to win. That's all I care about."
Scheckter said he has received numerous telephone calls from CART teams but would rather wait to make the best decision. It's conceivable that Scheckter could remain with Cheever through the end of the season, and Scheckter vowed he would do the best he could to win races.
"My wish is to still win a race for Cheever Racing, but if he doesn't want to give me the opportunity for whatever reason, then that's that," Scheckter said.Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories